Long before Starbucks, Microsoft, and Amazon.com (and the whole dot com phenomenon for that matter) Seattle was all about Boeing. Even now, since their headquarters moved to Chicago, Boeing is still the Seattle area’s largest employer and a huge presence in the community. READ MORE
Visiting the San Juan Islands is my idea of a dream vacation. I love the ocean. I am happiest with my toes in the sand, listening to waves lap along the shore, searching for shells and beach treasures, paddling along in a kayak and hoping to glimpse any kind of marine life. READ MORE
All travel promotes learning one way or another but we make a real effort to choose destinations that offer experiences aligned with our values. We just returned from our second annual 4th of July Family Getaway Weekend at the North Cascades Institute and it was absolutely wonderful. It’s hard to believe that such a remarkable all-inclusive destination exists at the edge of rugged mountain wilderness, on the shores of glistening green Lake Diablo with dramatic snowcapped mountains all around. Lucky for us, it does exist and not only is it kid-friendly, for several weekends a year they offer programs designed specifically for families!
The fun started on Friday morning at 10am. Yes, it was a little tricky to get packed up and ready to hit the road so early (it takes about two and a half hours to drive there from our house) but the early start is well worth the effort to have the whole day to spend on vacation in the forested wonderland of North Cascades National Park. Plus, it makes the trip an even better value with lunch included on that first day. We played a few “ice-breaker” games to get to know the other families and were thrilled to see that there were a lot of kids around the same age as ours. After a hearty, healthy, veg-friendly lunch, sign-up sheets were posted for families to choose their desired activities. We picked something called “Ecosystem Exploration” and also signed up for the Ranger-led Junior Ranger Exploration to earn yet another Junior Ranger Badge (apparently they let kids earn as many as they want from each park and let me tell you, William wears those badges with pride and wants as many as he can get)! Additional activities (various group hikes, free play in the art room, games, and story time to name a few) were offered that didn’t require signing up but plenty of time is also left open for family time, walks, relaxation, or whatever you choose.
Accommodations are Spartan with only two sets of bunk beds, a couple chairs and a small desk in each room but they are clean and well maintained. Pillows and a fitted sheet are provided but other than that, you bring your own bedding. The plain rooms weren’t a problem for us since we didn’t spend much time in the room but the thin walls with no sound-proofing were wearisome. The family staying in the room next to ours arrived after 10pm and had two kids to get settled down… noisy… and I’m sure we were too noisy for them the following morning. Oh well, I guess it goes with the territory if you sign up for a family weekend. Thankfully all the daytime activities had our kids so worn out that they weren’t easily woken during the night. Bathrooms are down the hall but that worked out well so I could shower and get dressed without waking the kids up in the morning.
It didn’t even take 24 hours for William to start insisting on hanging out with his new friends, totally in his element. Sara tends to be more reserved but she loved the beach and participated in a lot of the cooperative games (balls and hula hoops are left out in a common area for kids to play with).
The first night we took a walk down to Diablo Dam then on the second night the next we enjoyed a campfire complete with fun songs, Native stories, a silly skit, and smores (Sara’s turn to totally be in her element). It was especially hard for William to say goodbye to his new BFFs but after the Ranger Exploration, Badge presentation, and a lovely slideshow of moments from the weekend, we took one last walk to the dining hall then headed out. We will be back!
Blue sky and sunshine awaited us at Kelsey Creek Farm Park this bright spring morning. The air was frigid but we were all smiles heading to the barns to meet Farmer Jayne. She runs a fantastic farm kids program that gives kids a behind-the-scenes look at how the farm animals are cared for at the park and offers group tours and classes for kids.
We fed the pigs (pellets for the babies and a whopping big pumpkin for the 600+ pounds hefty girl), petted LucyBelle the growing calf and one of the goats (can’t remember if it was Bert or Ernie but the names made a lasting impression on the kids).
Then the kids got to touch a baby chick and pet a velvety black bunny. The grand finale was planting pumpkin seeds and with any luck (plus sunshine, warmth, and water) we’ll go back to watch them grow all summer long then see them harvested in the fall.
Knowing what a soaking wet spring it has been so far, we were prepared for mud with our weatherproof boots. Sara insisted on shorts despite the 40-something degree temperature (this is a battle I no longer engage in, rather I bring extra clothes just in case), but my little man buckled up his overalls in true farm fashion. The tour only lasted about 30 minutes but that was perfect for the attention span of our group of 2-5 year olds. Most of us stuck around afterward for a picnic and playtime at the playground and oh my… here is where the real fun began.
One word: MUD!
I consider myself very lucky to have friends who revel in this kind of activity for their children as much as I do.
This moment was a lovely reminder of what a good teacher my little girl is. Turns out, shorts were perfect for her today… and so was the extra change of clothes. We wandered out of the park feeling satisfied, tired, and happy with the sunshine on our backs. Now, one bath, one load of laundry, many bike rides and one rainstorm later, I am one happy Momma.